MORE than a week on from completing his emotional return, Theo Walcott is still unable to hide his excitement at being back at Saints.

The winger could make his first appearance for the club in more than 14 years on Saturday, when Saints head to Chelsea in the Premier League.

Among the players in the line-up when a fresh-faced Walcott last turned out for the club – a 1-0 defeat at QPR in the Championship – were club stalwarts Claus Lundekvam and Matt Oakley.

Having left to join Arsenal a few weeks later in January 2006, Walcott is now back but will take on the role as one of the elder statesmen of a young Saints side, aged 31.

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“It’s not hit me properly yet,” Walcott told the Daily Echo when asked if the move back to Hampshire had started to sink in.

“I feel like when I put on my shirt and play for the first time, it will probably hit me then. I can’t wait to get going really.”

It’s fair to see it has not been the ideal start to life back at the club for Walcott. With the news of new team-mate Stuart Armstrong’s positive COVID-19 test whilst away on international duty with Scotland, Saints’ Staplewood training complex was closed down last week for a deep clean.

That meant Walcott, who has not seen his close family since the deadline day switch from Everton, only began training at the club on Monday. And while it is a training ground he spent time at during his first spell at Saints, the new arrival admits he has been regularly losing his bearings this week.

“There’s a couple of faces that were here when I was here but I’m genuinely asking where to go, I’m getting lost around this place,” Walcott said.

“There’s a good flow about it, but honestly, I get lost. I’ll be walking into rooms I shouldn’t be.

“But it’s great. It’s a great set-up, the pitches are immaculate like they always have been and the facilities. It’s changed loads, it really has.”

Daily Echo: Theo Walcott reacts after losing the 2005 Youth Cup final.

He added: “Obviously there was an incident that happened at the training ground which had to be dealt with.

“We stayed away from the training ground, they sent us a programme to stick to, which was good.

“So I’ve only had two training sessions, but I know quite a lot of the lads here anyway and they’ve made me feel very welcome already.”

Walcott’s return was one of the biggest stories of transfer deadline day. News broke early in the morning that he was heading down south to make the loan move from Everton, but it took until well into the evening before it was eventually announced just before the 11pm cut-off.

Asked for his take on the last-minute switch, Walcott explained: “I was waiting on the other end of the phone call up north and waiting to then leave.

“First of all I’m very grateful to Everton, and Carlo (Ancelotti) to get the agreement done because it means so much to me, it really does to come back down to Southampton. It was a long process, which they just are.

“I was getting peppered by messages, I had to ignore people, it’s not a bad thing at times when you get to ignore a few people!

“A lot of friends and family have been brilliant. I’ve managed to see a couple of people I’ve not seen for a long time as well. So it’s really nice to be back down here.

“But I’m not here just to stop, I’m here to really work as hard as I can and to show that I’ve still got a lot more in my legs and in my head as well. I feel like I’ve got a lot to offer.

“I need to obviously get fit and get training, I’ve only trained a couple of times but I’m raring to go, I really am.”

Daily Echo: Theo Walcott

As well as trying to learn his way around the training ground, Walcott is also taking some time to settle back in to life in Southampton away from the pitch.

When Walcott was last at Saints he was staying in digs at The Lodge, sharing a room with fellow academy starlet Gareth Bale.

He met his now wife Melanie at Westquay Shopping Centre around a year before leaving Saints, and the pair have stayed together since and have two young children, Finley and Arlo, who are yet to follow their dad to the south coast.

“Everything has happened at 100 miles an hour, it really has,” Walcott said.

“I’ve not been able to breathe really. I’ve not seen Mel and the kids for 10 days now, it’s just the way it is at this moment in time.

“It’s half term soon as well so I’ll be able to get all the troops down, all the madness, it will be great, I can’t wait!

“But I’ve got a couple of family and friends that are really close so I’ve managed to see them and then when Mel and the kids come down they’ll be able to get to see them a lot more as well. So I’m dead excited to be back with the family.”

It is tradition at Saints for new signings to sing a song in front of the rest of the squad ahead of their first away trip, which for Walcott is due to come this weekend.

And although he has been at the club in the past, he is prepared to hit the right note off the pitch before he hopes to impress on the field at Stamford Bridge.

“I’ve been practicing, don’t worry,” Walcott said when asked about his initiation.

“I’ve got three I’ve been practicing so I just need to think which one will be the best one. I won’t say anything, but if they just say go and sing, I’ll sing.

“I can’t be one of those that just doesn’t do it. Uncle Kracker, that might be the one.”

He added: “I did one at Arsenal when I just did a speech to Thierry (Henry) and all these players and I didn’t stop talking really and they just wanted to get me off. I was only 16.

“So I won’t be talking, I’d bore the hell out of everyone I think!”